#WaraElCeema: “I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face” Director Sameh Alaa Shares the Challenges He Faced on His Way to Fame
The 42nd Cairo International Film Festival is currently taking place and that’s all everyone has been talking about lately. Not only because it is one of the most anticipated festivals of the year, but also because this edition has come to life in the most challenging year, amid a pandemic, and despite it all, it’s turning out to be perfect and even more special! We sat down with Egyptian Director Sameh Alaa to talk about his recent moment in the spotlight.
Sameh Alaa recently made history by becoming the first Egyptian to earn the prestigious Palme D’or award at the Cannes Film Festival for his short film “I’m Afraid to Forget Your Face“. For such a huge achievement, it was only appropriate that we ask him more about the whole experience, both from a professional side, and a personal one as well.
Alaa was featured in this year’s “Arabs Stars of Tomorrow”, supported by MBC Hope, an initiative that focuses on empowering Arab youth and giving them a push towards their promising future.
Keep reading for some insights from Sameh Alaa!
Did you ever think you’d become this famous growing up?
I actually wanted to be a famous soccer player when I was little, but when I became 15, I developed this passion for arts and cinema. But even then, I didn’t think of fame as a target I want to reach, but of course it’s a beautiful dream.
Out of all the movies you’ve directed, which one was the hardest, and which was your favorite?
I cannot say I love one other than the other, because it’s like your babies, as cliché as it might sound, but I always like to compare making movies with making babies, so maybe you have to take care at some point for one film because it’s new while the other one is already known.. but in the end they’re all the same and I love them equally.
As for the hardest, they were all challenging in a way, because even if you’re the most famous director in the world, you still have challenges, and if you don’t, you’ll no longer be able to do special artwork anymore, because it’s all about constantly pushing yourself through the challenges, doing something different for the industry, the audience and yourself.
Who was the first person/what was the first thought that crossed your mind once you found out you’d won the Palme D’or?
No one honestly. I was really happy, like it was a beautiful dream, so I was caught up in the special moment thinking of nothing but the overwhelming happiness I’m experiencing, and enjoying it in quiteness.
What should the audience expect from the upcoming debut “I can hear your voice.. still”?
They shouldn’t expect anything because I’m trying to push myself to be different, I cannot stay in the comfort zone. I also wanted it to be enjoyable for me, so I’m not going to give people what they are expecting and I hope they like what I broke in their expectations. So basically, expect nothing because it’ll be out of the ordinary.
Do you put your personal input in the movies you direct, or is it more of rational decisions?
No it’s never rational it’s more or less a matter of choices, I don’t follow strict guidelines but rather my feelings. Even the choice of an actor looking to the camera in a specific way, came to me instantly in a matter of feeling. So I bring things to life based on my personal experiences, then I try to make sense out of it and convince people with my vision.
What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a film director?
I think for anyone, not only for film directors, the most important quality is “passion”. You have to follow your passion and fight for it, even if it’s not going to give you everything you expect in terms of financial gains right away, but in the end, when you follow your passion, it’ll make you grow and it will get you there one day.
What was the most memorable moment you had on a set?
I will never forget when all my family was with me on set. They were just sitting casually in the kitchen, but it was very beautiful and meaningful for me. They were just backing me up and supporting me on set, and they don’t expect anything at all, they were just there having my back, which made it so special.
What’s the most important lesson you had to learn that made a positive impact on your short films?
To be honest, and to do a story that only “you” can be able to tell. To follow your passion without trying to be someone else, because when I was young, I tried to be like the directors I used to like and copy them, because I just loved how they do their work. Because back at the time when you are young, you have this feeling that you’re not interesting enough to tell the stories you are experiencing, but when you grow up and have courage to talk about the things you really know, you start to notice that people are feeling the honesty you have and get more connected to your artwork.
This year has been, by all means, challenging and different, but tell me what are you most grateful for in 2020?
I’m grateful that I’m still alive, achievements and awards are all great but the survival instinct is the most important, so good health of mine and my family is what I’m grateful for the most this year.
Finally, if you are to have one super power, what would it be?
To be able to make people calm down, that I’d actually have the power that once I touch any person, they’d automatically feel better.